Start your exploration of Portugal's Jewish heritage in the small towns of Évora, Belmonte, Marvão, and Castelo de Vide, where you'll visit synagogues, museums, monuments, and cemeteries, all while learning about the history of the region. On your way to the Douro River Valley for a wine tasting and rabelo boat ride, you'll stop at the house of Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese resister during WWII. End your trip with guided architecture and Jewish heritage tours in Porto and Lisbon.

Highlights

  • Wander the streets in the historic Jewish Quarters of Évora
  • Discover the history of the Jewish community still living in Belmonte
  • Enjoy the architecture of Porto and the Jewish heritage of Lisbon
  • Sip wine in the Douro Valley and ride a traditional Rabelo boat along the river
  • Visit synagogues, memorials, and museums while perusing small Portuguese towns

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive at Lisbon Airport - Transfer to Évora and explore the city Évora
Day 2 Tour Évora - Drive to Belmonte via Marvão and Castelo de Vide Belmonte
Day 3 Explore Belmonte - Drive to the Douro Valley via Casa do Passal Peso de Régua
Day 4 Visit the Douro Valley for a wine tasting Porto
Day 5 Explore Porto with a private walking tour Porto
Day 6 Drive to Lisbon - Join a Jewish Heritage walking tour Lisbon
Day 7 Depart Portugal  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Lisbon Airport - Transfer to Évora and explore the city

White Houses of Évora
White Houses of Évora

Welcome to Portugal!

Upon arriving at Lisbon Airport, your host will greet you with all the necessary documentation and assistance. Then, you'll transfer about 1.5 hours east to the city of Évora

After settling into your hotel, stave off any jetlag with a stroll through the city. Although you'll enjoy a guided walking tour of Évora tomorrow, check out some of its main sights. Start in the center of the Old Town, at Praça do Giraldo which is surrounded by beautiful architecture. Meander the square with its large fountain and views of the Church of Santo Antão, then make your way to the viewpoint, Miradouro do Jardim Diana, which is near the Cadaval Palace. Enjoy the views over the city's rooftops and the ancient ruins of Templo Romano Évora.

There are plenty of restaurants in the city's Old Town. Grab a seat at a terraced cafe in one of the main squares, or peruse the side streets for a cozy bistro.

Day 2: Tour Évora - Drive to Belmonte via Marvão and Castelo de Vide

Castle-Dominated Town of Marvão
Castle-Dominated Town of Marvão

After breakfast, your guide will lead you through the city of Évora on a 3-hour walking tour. With narrow, Moorish-style streets contrasting with lively, open squares, you'll understand why this city is a beloved UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you wander along the medieval walls, stop to visit some of the city's churches, such as the 18th-century Cathedral of Évora and the Graça Church. You can't miss the Gothic-style São Francisco Church, with its curious Chapel of Bones

After an initial introduction to the city, you'll explore Évora's interesting Jewish history, including some of the most important Jewish quarters in the country. Starting in the 14th century, in an attempt to limit the interaction between Christians and Jews, the Jews in Portugal were forced to live in neighborhoods named Judiarias (Jewish Quarters). Meander through these old neighborhoods as your guide divulges stories of daily life for the Jewish communities throughout the centuries.

Aside from its many Judiarias, Évora holds other significant Jewish histories. The city became the headquarters of one of the seven ouvidorias jurídicas (Portuguese-Jewish Courts). It was also home to the Holy Inquisition Court, which processed the most accusation cases for Judaism in Portugal. When passing by Giraldo Square, you'll find a memorial honoring of the victims of Portuguese Inquisition

In the afternoon, you'll leave Évora and start your 3-hour trip to the hillside town of Belmonte. Along the way, you'll stop in the towns of Marvão and Castelo de Vide.

Marvão sits between Castelo de Vide and Portalegre near the border with Spain and on the highest crest of the Serra de São Mamede mountain range. Inside the walls of this historic town are narrow streets lined with the beautiful houses featuring architecture typical of the country's Alentejo Region. You'll find Gothic arches, Manueline windows, wrought-iron balconies, and other embellishments made from the local granite.

Twenty minutes away is Castelo de Vide, a historic walled town dominated by its castle. Explore the old Jewish Quarter and find hidden treasures like the medieval synagogue, Sinagoga de Castelo de Vide, which was beautifully restored and now functions as a museum. It features a rare, 14th-century stone ark for its Torah. Here you'll learn about the Jewish community that settled in the town, as well as its influence and persecution by the Portuguese Inquisition.

In the evening, you'll settle into your accommodation in the town of Belmonte and enjoy dinner in one of its cozy restaurants.

Day 3: Explore Belmonte - Drive to the Douro Valley via Casa do Passal

Historic Square in Belmonte
Historic Square in Belmonte

Enjoy breakfast at your accommodation, then meet your guide for a walking tour through the town of Belmonte. You'll start at the Beit Eliahu Synagogue, which was inaugurated in 1996, precisely 500 years after the decree prohibiting Judaism in Portugal. It sits along Fonte da Rosa Street, in a small promontory on the valley facing toward Jerusalem. Here you can meet with the local Jewish community members and visit the cemetery.

Next, you'll visit the Belmonte Jewish Museum, which opened in 2005 as the first museum in Portugal dedicated to Jewish heritage. The exhibits focus on the experience of Judaism in Belmonte, particularly the fear that led to hidden practices. You'll learn about the prayers, tools, and modes of communication used by the Jewish community throughout the centuries.

After lunch, you'll make your way to today's destination, the beautiful Duoro Valley. Along the way, you'll stop in the town of Carregal do Sal and visit Casa do Passal, a former residence of Arístides de Sousa Mendes, an unsung Portuguese hero. While working as a diplomat in Bordeaux, Sousa Mendes issued approximately 30,000 visas for those fleeing Nazi persecution. For his act of defiance, he was severely punished by the Portuguese government, stripped of his diplomatic position, and forbidden from earning a living. 

In the evening, you'll arrive in the Douro Valley in the town of Peso de Régua. After settling into your accommodation, take some time to rest before enjoying dinner on the banks of the Duoro River.

Day 4: Visit the Douro Valley for a wine tasting

The Douro Valley Wine Region
The Douro Valley Wine Region

Awake early for your group tour of the Douro Valley, a wine region in Northern Portugal. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Douro Valley is set within rocky hills, which lack quality soil needed for winemaking. Throughout the centuries, however, locals revitalized the region, planting vineyards one at a time. 

Start the tour with a scenic drive, admiring the passing landscapes of deep valleys, sharp turns along the Douro River, and terraced vineyards that seem to go on forever. You'll have the opportunity to visit one of the many estates that produce the region's famous wines and ports, tasting the different varietals while enjoying lunch.

The Douro River is also known for its difficulty in navigation, challenging boats with its natural barriers. The Rabelo boat, a unique and ancient vessel, is the only one able to take on the river. Nowadays, these types of boats are used for tourism, offering 1-hour river cruises. Enjoy the views of the valley from a different perspective. 

In the late afternoon, you'll start your 1.5-hour journey to the city of Porto, arriving in time to settle into your hotel and stroll the neighborhood in search of dinner.

Day 5: Explore Porto with a private walking tour

The Riverfront of Porto, Portugal
The Riverfront of Porto, Portugal

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before embarking on a guided tour of Porto. Start at the São Bento Station, well-known throughout the world for its atrium lined with about 20,000 blue tiles. Nearby is the Romanesque Porto Cathedral and the Clérigos Tower, a baroque bell tower worth the climb for its expansive views of Porto.

You can't miss Livraria Lello, a 19th-century bookstore that inspired parts of Harry Potter. Then pop into Café Majestic for a little rest and a cup of coffee while admiring its ornate interior. Continue to the neighborhood of Ribeira, navigating the steep steps and medieval streets through café terraces and picturesque corners. You'll have free time to browse the shops or simply relax at one of the main squares.

After lunch, enjoy a walk along the banks of the Douro River. Here you'll find many places to taste Portugal's famous wine, or you can take a short river cruise in one of the traditional Rabelo boats. Grab dinner at one of the restaurants lining the river while you watch the sunset behind the city.

Day 6: Drive to Lisbon - Join a Jewish Heritage walking tour

The Red Rooftops of Alfama, Lisbon
The Red Rooftops of Alfama, Lisbon

Enjoy your morning in Porto, then start your journey south to Portugal's capital city, Lisbon. After arriving in the city, you'll join a guide for a walking tour, focusing on the city's Jewish heritage. You'll start at the Shaare Tikvah Synagogue, a truly hidden treasure. Inaugurated in 1904, it was the first synagogue built in Portugal for nearly 500 years, due to the expulsion ordered by King D. Manuel I in 1496. When it was built, the law prevented any temple that was not Christian to have a facade facing the street. So despite its central location, you won't find its entrance on the main street.

The architect of the synagogue, Ventura Terra, was one of the most renowned architects of the time. It's a humble building with two gender-specific floors facing toward Jerusalem. It created an important community for the Jewish families in Lisbon, as well as Sephardi families from North Africa and Gibraltar who, after the extinction of the Inquisition in 1821, started returning to Portugal.

Your next stop is the 1506 Jewish Massacre Memorial, a tribute to the victims of intolerance and religious fanaticism. The memorial is in the location where the massacre started, in the square opposite the St. Dominic Church.

In the afternoon, you'll explore the neighborhood of Alfama, the oldest quarter of Lisbon where you’ll find St. George’s Castle perched atop one of the city's hills. Nearby, you'll also visit the Judiaria (Jewish Quarter) of Lisbon, filled with narrow streets and small houses where the Jewish population once lived.

Next, head to the downtown area of Baixa, completely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1755. Stroll in Chiado, a bohemian area, where 19th-century writers and thinkers gathered to discuss intellectual matters in the cafes. You'll find plenty of restaurants for lunch in either neighborhood.

Later, head to Belém, the quarter of Lisbon most associated with the time of the Portuguese Discoveries. There you’ll find monuments such as the Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries, and the Belém Tower, a great place to watch the sunset.

Now that you know the city's layout, enjoy your final evening in Portugal by exploring the neighborhoods on your own and finding a lively restaurant for dinner.

Day 7: Depart Portugal

Unforgettable views of Lisbon
Unforgettable views of Lisbon

It's time to say goodbye to beautiful Portugal. In the morning, your driver will transfer you to the airport in time to catch your flight home, or onto your next destination.